Friday, October 23, 2009

Chamber of Hoaxes: Reuters, CNBC Duped by 'Yes Men'

Chamber of CommerceImage via Wikipedia
When "TUOL"'s humble servant toiled in journalism school, the credo of the news profession was: "Get it first, get it fast, get it right."  In the wake of a left-wing activist group's Chamber of Commerce climate-change ruse that ensnared CNBC, Reuters, and Fox Business News, today's  modified media credo might be: "Two out of three isn't bad."

The "Yes Men" took credit for the pseudo-story that claimed the Chamber of  Commerce had reversed its long-standing position of opposing climate change legislation, but wanted such legislation to include a carbon tax. The ruse involved printing the policy change announcement on an authentic-looking press release with the Chamber logo that included the names of press contacts, including "Erica Avidus," staging a press conference in a rented room at The National Press Club with a lectern boasting the Chamber logo at which phony reporters from the "Expres News" and "Herald Tribune" took their place among the press corps, and setting up a fake Website,, rather than the actual site,

It wasn't long before the purportedly cynical, dogged press took the bait. A CNBC anchor cut away from reading a story to announce "breaking news," switching to CNBC reporter Hampton Pearson reading from the faux Chamber press release. Soon after, Pearson issued a second report in which he branded his previous bulletin a hoax. For good measure, another CNBC journalist questioned whether the White House was involved in the deception.

Not to be left out, Fox Business News flashed its "breaking news" graphic to announce the new-found Chamber support for the climate change bill, only to retract its scoop moments later, acknowledging that it had learned in contacting the Chamber [checking with a source, what a novel idea!], apparently the group had not changed his stance on the environmental legislation.

Meanwhile, Reuters news service sent a bulletin announcing the Chamber no longer would oppose climate change legislation before following up with a "never mind" retraction a tad late, as The Washington Post and The New York Times respective Web sites already had posted the breaking (broken?) story.

Before  sympathy begins to well up for the red-faced news media that allowed its competitive juices to overwhelm its judgment, let's be clear that there were plenty of indicators suggesting the Chamber story stunk like a three-day old flounder smothered in limburger sauce that the press ignored.  For example, the phony press release misspelled Chamber President Tom Donohue's name, the press contact did not work at the Chamber--or even exist--as "Avidus" from the Latin, means greedy.

The spectacle of the press conference engineered by the Yes Men with the assistance of two other groups, the activist AVAAZ Action Factory and the environmental Web site,, quickly devolved into competing press conferences as an actual Chamber representative arrived on the scene and told the assembled press that the event was fraudulent, while the Yes Men/Chamber poseur, Andy Bichlbaum (not his real name) a/k/a Chamber spokesperson Hingo Sembra (nope, that's not his name either) challenged the Chamber rep,

One wonders if the press might have been a bit more suspicious had Bichlbaum/Sembra arrived at the press conference via balloon.
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1 comment:

  1. Don't knock three-day old flounder smothered in limburger sauce. Don't eat it, but don't knock it. It's the kind of culinary invention that leads, eventually, to Goldfish Crackers and other successful mergings of seafood and cheese. Without . . . whatever disgusting mess you proposed, there would be no Scallops in Mornay Sauce or Lobster Macaroni and Cheese.